An outing at Cincinnati's zoo turned tragic Saturday when a 4-year-old boy was hospitalized after falling into a gorilla enclosure, where he was picked up by a 400-pound gorilla, the zoo director said.
The toddler crawled through a barrier and fell an estimated 10 to 12 feet into the moat surrounding the habitat. He was dragged by the 17-year-old male gorilla for about 10 minutes.
Zoo Director Thane Maynard said the zoo’s dangerous animal response unit that practices for such incidents decided the boy was in “a life-threatening situation” and decided to put down the gorilla, named Harambe.
The gorilla, according to the officials, didn’t appear to be attacking the child. However, since the animal was “extremely strong” in an agitated situation, Maynard added that tranquilizing the gorilla wouldn’t have knocked it out immediately, leaving the boy in worse danger.
The child was in between the gorilla’s legs when the zoo’s response team took the shot.
While the director said putting the gorilla down was a "difficult choice," he said, "The right choice was made." He also called it "a sad day" at the zoo, but credited the zoo team with saving the young boy's life.
The toddler, whose name has not yet been released, is expected to make a full recovery. Meanwhile, the zoo is closed while officials investigate the incident.